Democracy and modernisation are not western products that the west is trying to export to certain countries that have a shortage. They are universal values that, for many reasons, the west was able to espouse and implement before other countries. Among these reasons was a particular mix of culture, law and leadership that helped the western countries to be in advance of others (such as Arab World) in the application of democracy and modernisation. Although this does not necessarily mean that all westerners abide by these values, western citizens, for the most part, have come to realise that these values serve the good of society and promote personal development.
The Arab World has long been resisting the genuine implementation of democracy and modernisation. For centuries, autocracy and cultural and regional wars have created a mental blockage preventing people in this region from understanding and digesting these values and how they can help them to progress. The lack of harmony between appreciating these values and the daily struggles against the factors mentioned above prevented democracy and modernisation from reaching the region; the west was accused of exporting certain values that are not keeping with the cultural and the religious values of the Arab world, for the purpose of westernising the Arab populations.
In my opinion, these values are not tradable; they are adoptable by any society that reaches the necessary maturity level. This also explains why youngsters, who are more exposed and broad-minded, tend to digest these values much faster than do older generations.
In reality, older Arabs are the ones who are resisting the implementation of democracy and modernisation, as this could place them in inferior positions to the younger generations. Youngsters are ready and willing to espouse and apply democracy and modernisation, but they are facing stubborn resistance from those in power, who accuse the younger generation of being “westernised”. This struggle is not limited to the Arab World; it is probably taking place in some other Asian and African nations as well.
Wealthy Arabs are often fond of the latest technologies. They possess the most up-to-date gadgets, which they use on a daily basis at home, at work and while commuting. Nevertheless, the fact that they are surrounded by these technologies, has never led them to pose the question of why the Americans, Europeans and Japanese were able to invent them, while we, the Arabs, are only good consumers. The Arabs, who are in many cases the largest customer group, have never been producers. The reason for this discrepancy is simply the absence of a proper application of democracy and modernisation.
Democracy and modernisation are interlinked! Modernisation requires developing a structured scientific environment that helps people to innovate and eventually benefits society. You can’t innovate and modernise a society without ensuring freedom of expression, which allows people to challenge the status quo, without applying the rule of law that guarantees that justice is applied and protects innovation, without encouraging free trade to obtain the latest products and up-to-date technology, to be used as a basis for further development. Without a strong belief in, and proper implementation of, these factors, we will not adopt the universal values of democracy and modernisation.
Religion can play a strong role in helping people to better understand and apply democracy and modernisation and to appreciate their purpose and value – this will require citizens to fully understand the religion in its contexts and contents that obviously do not conflict with democracy and modernisation as a value. Seeing only the downside of democracy and modernisation is the fault of the receivers of these values and their poor application of them. It has nothing to do with the values themselves. However, enclosing citizens within a tightly religious environment restricts individuals from realising their capacity to create and innovate. Actually, the purpose of this type of enclosing, or labelling, is to realise political goals by managing and controlling citizens and immobilising their power to think, innovate and act freely.
To enable the Arabs to enjoy the maximum benefits of democracy and modernisation, it is critical that citizens be empowered with more freedom, allowing them to produce out-of-the box ideas and to structure their governments to incorporate these ideas. People need to have a liberal mindset to be able to innovate. Basically, widening citizens’ personal “broadband” enables them to receive more knowledge concerning these values. To properly implement these values societies and nations need to be more socially and politically mature, with a wide educational spectrum. Enclosing the minds of Arabs, still happening at this moment, won’t help this part of the world to progress towards the universal values of democracy and modernisation.